I reach for the outstretched Italian hand that firmly pulls me onto an old, wooden gondola, into another time. I carefully step aboard the wobbly boat and take my ornate, velvet seat amongst the Canadians facing me. I feel them looking at my worn rubber flip-flops, the permanent ink sky on my foot, my elephant t-shirt. Where is she from? How old is she? I smile and they collectively question me. Yes, I’m American – yes, I’m traveling my myself, and I unwind the tale of my journey to curious Canadians as we bob into the wide canal, floating into another world.

We navigate through the intricate channels of Venice, making small talk, “When you settle down someday you will have lots of stories to tell. You should write a book.” I politely nod, but my mind wonders as we float through the green, mysterious water that tell the stories of houses which no longer talk. Water sneaks up to the old, sinking stairways, leading up to intricate doorways of the past, doorways that once welcomed costumed families home, invited masked men and women into lush parties.

Yes, I’ve walked through the passages, crossed the bridges, but from the gondola I see Venice as it once was, as it was intended to be. The houses tell their stories, exposed brick worn by the water and age, refusing to relinquish the charm they once possessed despite the cracks and sagging stains of exposure. Flowers and paint adorn the old structures, as a women robbed of her youth paints her face to recapture the spirit and beauty she once possessed. Sadness, charm, and beauty fill the wide, empty canals as we creep through the past.

My daydream abruptly ceases as we bump the wooden dock, a reminder to come back, that our journey through the past is over. The same hand urges me to leave the swaying gondola, sparkling dark Italian eyes beckon me to the creaking wooden deck. I turn back as the twinkling eyes wink at me, as if they knew the secrets and magic of the shallow green waters. I disappear into the crowd, the flow of people who flood the narrow maze of streets, lost amid the masks, bridges, and shops of Venice.

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